Words by hubbul
We’re used to seeing a rosy outlook for the majority of the UK’s freelance workforce. And in recent years confidence levels have soared and record numbers of people have embraced what’s now widely looked at as ‘the new way of working’.
And to some degree, things are still in a good place, relatively anyway. The latest stats from IPSE reveal that 83% of freelancers at the end of this year’s third quarter were engaged in a project at the time of asking.
But even so, confidence among this group of freelancers, contractors and interims has taken a knock, and optimism in their own business performance over the next 12 months is wavering.
Freelancer confidence has fallen by 13% in the space of 4 months. From 41% at the end of quarter 2, it now sits at 28% - the lowest point this year. What’s particularly worrying is that to a certain extent this drop in optimism is down to factors outside of the average freelancer’s immediate control.
The attitudes of government towards the freelance workforce, along with the regulation around the actual hiring of freelancers and contractors rank as the top two reasons for this drop.
“The government’s interventions announced in the Summer Budget have given cause for freelancers to have a negative outlook for the health of their business in the short and medium term,” explains Lorence Nye, economist.
What’s clear is that the Conservative Party has a job on its hands to convince the UK’s independent workforce that they have their best intentions in mind. And on top of this, 65% of those asked in the survey reckon the cost of running their business are set to rise over the course of the next year. So let’s not sugar coat it. Compared to previous months, even years, confidence among this workforce is nowhere near as strong as it has been.
However, (and yes, there is a however), in true contingent workforce fashion, the UK’s freelance workforce has a contingency plan in place. Instead of waiting for the labouring Government to modernise and evolve policy, freelancers are proactively looking at ways to beat this downturn.
“What is impressive is that against an increasingly tough external business environment, freelancers have been able to achieve business performance through their own efforts in brand building, innovation and collaborating with other freelancers on contracts,” explained Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School, and co-author of the report.
Freelancers themselves see reputation, innovation and collaboration key in reinvigorating their business prospects and turning the tide on what is widely hoped to be a short-term blip in the spirits of the very workforce that’s become so vital to the UK, economically and socially speaking.
Other key stats from the report include:
· Freelancer confidence in the UK economy over the next 12 months has also fallen, sitting at -4.3, down from +16.1 at the end of this year’s 2nd quarter.
· More than half (56%) of those asked, haven’t experienced either inflation of deflation of business costs over past 12 months.
· Freelancers are taking less time off between contracts. From 2.6 weeks in Q2, down to 2.2 weeks at the end of Q3 2015